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Eating potatoes good for water conservation

Potato Product Group of Horticulture New Zealand


30 June 2008


Eating potatoes good for water conservation

New Zealanders keen on conserving water and protecting the environment should look no further than the potato, says food and education consultant Glenda Gourley.

“Potatoes require a lot less water to grow than other carbohydrates, which is particularly important in areas of drought or where water access is restricted. On average, it takes 300 buckets of water to grow one kilo of rice, 50 buckets to grow one kilo of wheat and just eight buckets to grow a kilo of potatoes. For those keen to conserve water and do their bit for the planet, eating locally grown potatoes rather than imported rice is a step in the right direction.”

Ms Gourley says New Zealanders love potatoes, with 97% of us eating them regularly. She says a recent survey she carried out of 400 13 year olds highlighted that the next generation are pretty keen on them as well, with 84% knowing how to mash them, 74% knowing how to boil them and 73% knowing how to bake them.

“It was great to find so many young New Zealanders know how to cook them, however only 45% knew potatoes were a good source of vitamins, so we have a way to go in regard to educating people about the nutritional value of potatoes. A potato contains nearly half your daily requirement of Vitamin C, and is an important source of Vitamin B and minerals. Served in their skins they are a great source of fibre. They really are one of nature’s super foods.”
As well as using less water, potatoes can be grown on marginal land, which is one reason why this important tuber is being promoted by the United Nations as an answer to world hunger.

While potato consumption has declined in Europe, it is increasing in the developing world, where it has doubled in the past 15 years. The United Nations is hoping that its International Year of the Potato, which is being promoted world-wide, will encourage the sustainable development of more potato-based food systems, and in turn address food shortages being experienced in some countries.

Glenda Gourley says the size of farms in many countries such as sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia are shrinking, so many farmers are turning from growing grains and legumes to root and tuber crops.

“The potato produces more nutritious food more quickly, on less land and in harsher climates than any other major crop. Up to 85% of the plant is edible human food, compared to around 50% for cereals, so it is a very useful food source.”

New Zealand’s 256 potato growers are supporting the International Year of the Potato, and a range of activities aimed at promoting the benefits of growing and eating potatoes are being undertaken throughout the year. More information on the International Year of the Potato can be found at www.vegetables.co.nz/potatoes

ENDS

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